Country music legend Jimmy Dean has died at the age of 81. The singer passed away suddenly on Sunday, June 13 evening at his home in Varina, Virginia, according to his wife, Donna Meade Dean. Donna has revealed she left her husband eating in front of the television, but when she returned he had lost consciousness.
Dean was pronounced dead later that evening. A spokesman for the Henrico County Police department tells CNN.com Dean's death appears to be the result of natural causes.
Dean made his first foray into showbusiness after leaving the U.S. airforce in the 1940s, hosting a radio show and forming a band called the Texas Wildcats. In the 1950s he hosted a series of TV shows before scoring a number one hit in America with 1961's "Big Bad John" - the song that won Dean a Grammy Award.
Dean scored several more chart hits in the 1960s with songs including "Stand Beside Me", "Sweet Misery" and "A Thing Called Love", and he also became a successful TV star, guest-hosting the "Tonight Show" and fronting his own self-titled programme "The Jimmy Dean Show".
He later tested out his acting skills with several film and TV projects - including his best-known role as reclusive Las Vegas billionaire Willard Whyte in 1971 James Bond movie, "Diamonds Are Forever". Dean also became known for his famous food firm, the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company, which he set up in 1969 with his brother Don. The company later became known as the Sara Lee Corporation and Dean was a longtime spokesman for the brand.
The veteran star was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in February and was due to be inducted in October. He is survived by three children, Garry, Connie and Robert, from his marriage to Mary Sue Dean, as well as his second wife Donna Meade Dean.